The Elusive Heartbeat
By Sissy (sissy@svs.net)
& Chris (ckline-usa@foreverliving.com)

 

Walker enters the front door of the HOPE Center and, seeing Alex talking to Josie by the kitchen door, walks toward her. Her eyes light up as she spots him and his heart warms as he kisses her softly on the cheek, "Are you ready, Alex?"

"Yes, darling, I'm ready." Turning back to Josie, "I'll go over these papers tonight and get them back to you tomorrow. And hopefully, I'll have a decision for you by then, too. Goodnight, Josie." She turns and with Walker at her side, starts toward the door.

"Goodnight Alex. You know you don't have to make a decision tonight. Think about it for a few days, okay?" She follows them as they walk out onto the porch.

"I know, I guess I'm just a little anxious about it. I'll see you tomorrow." Josie watches the two of them walk to the curb and sees Walker turn Alex into his chest and kiss her tenderly on the lips. Realizing they have an audience, he quickly helps Alex into the truck then he gets in and drives away.

They are silent for a few minutes, then Walker looks at Alex, "What's this big decision you have to make, honey? Does it concern the HOPE Center?"

"Yes. It's something I've been thinking about for several days but I'm just not sure the HOPE Center is the best place to try it out. It may be dangerous for the people staying there now."

"What is it you'd like to do, Alex?"

"I need to find a safe house for the abused women that come to us looking for help. We don't really have the room at the HOPE Center, but I was thinking that maybe HOPE Center could serve as a temporary shelter until we can get them situated into something more permanent. We have one woman and her two children staying there now, but I'm afraid that if her husband comes looking for her, it could prove to be dangerous for the other people at the Center. I just don't think we should do it."

"Well, you're probably right about the danger, especially with kids there. I can see your dilemma." He stops the truck in front of the house, turns the engine off, then turns to Alex, "Maybe after dinner, we can put our heads together and come up with an alternate plan."

"I knew I could depend on you to help me think this through." She leans over and kisses him hungrily, then pulls back, "Come on, honey, let's go in."

She opens the door, slides out, and as she comes around the front of the truck, she hears someone yelling. She turns to see a man coming around the corner of the house toward her. He is waving a gun and shouting, "Bitch, you broke up my family, now you're dead! You're dead!"

Alex freezes, unable to move, everything seems to be moving in slow motion. She sees the gun aimed at her and hears the explosion of shots being fired.

But Walker is not frozen he's moving. He yells, "NO!" as he shoves her to the side and returns fire at the same time.

When Alex gets up off the ground, she sees the gunman lying still, not moving. "Oh, God, Walker, what Walker!" She screams when she sees Walker lying on the ground, as blood starts to pool beneath him. She moves to his side and sees two bullet holes-one in his chest and one in his side, just below the ribcage. Realizing his life depends on her quick action, she moves to the truck and grabs the mike, "Dispatch, this is Mrs. Walker. I need paramedics and DPD at the ranch, Now. Walker's been shot! Hurry!"

As she drops the mike, she hears, "Roger that Mrs. Walker, ETA seven minutes. Can you give any other details, Mrs. Walker? Mrs. Walker?"

She rushes back to Walker and kneels at his side. As she leans over him and presses her fingers against his neck, her own heart nearly stops when she feels no pulse. "Walker!" There is no sign that he is breathing, no chest movement and as she puts her ear to his mouth, she can feel no movement of air against her cheek. "Walker! Oh, God!" Blood, so much blood!

She tilts his head back and pinches his nose shut then closes her mouth over his and breathes into his lungs, checking to make sure his chest rises. After 4 breaths, she laces her fingers together, places them over Walker's sternum and holds her arms stiff as she pumps on his chest. After 15 compressions, she moves back to his mouth. A breath into his lungs then another. Count to three. Breathe. Count, then pump. She falls into a rhythm as she moves from his chest to his mouth. She pauses periodically to check for any indication of a pulse. A heartbeat. A breath. Something! Anything! Oh, God. There is nothing but silence against her ear.

For just a second she feels overwhelmed with hopelessness and tears stream down her cheeks. Then she pulls herself together, roughly brushes the tears away and falls back into the rhythm of CPR. Breathe Count Pump She looks to his chest.

The blood is barely dribbling now. She bends over and places her lips against Walker's again. His lips are growing cool and beginning to take on a bluish hue-lifeless under her own. "Breathe, Walker," she urges. God, where are the paramedics? Minutes seem like hours to her. "Come on, Walker, breathe. You can't leave me, not now." She renews her efforts. Precious more seconds pass while her hands and mouth move over Walker's mouth and chest.

She loses all track of time, working on adrenaline alone, when suddenly someone is lifting her away from him, "No, please " then realizing that the paramedics have arrived, she allows herself to be moved out of the way, "Oh, God, please help him." She watches as they carefully stabilize his spine, intubate him and inject an ampule of epinephrine directly into his heart.

Her knees start to buckle as they let go of her, but strong arms catch her, holding her up. "Alex, hang on, I've got you." Hearing Trivette's voice she relaxes just a little and leans against him. Giving in to the enormity of the situation, tears flood her eyes as she watches them work on Walker. They put a neck brace on him, then gently roll him onto a backboard. As they move toward the waiting helicopter, she breaks away from Jimmy and follows him, insisting on going with them.

 

*****

 

As she watches the paramedics work on Walker, opening an airway, checking his blood pressure, shocking his heart, she closes her eyes and prays that this is all just a terrible nightmare from which she will soon awake. But when she opens her eyes, she realizes that this is real and Walker is not responding. She whispers, "Come on, darling, fight this."

When they land at the hospital, she stares at Walker's very still, pale form as they move the gurney toward the trauma room, unaware that she is holding his hand until the nurses forcibly pull his hand from hers. Cool and unmoving, his fingers slide from hers. She looks up to see a nurse standing in front of her, barring her way. "Please, I need to go with him, he's my husband."

As she starts around the nurse, "I'm sorry, but you can't. Hospital regulations." Alex looks up then and sees the sign over the door. 'NO ADMITTANCE. HOSPITAL PERSONNEL ONLY.' She turns slowly then and sits on a nearby couch as another nurse comes up and pushes a clipboard of papers into her hand. "I need you to fill these out, Miss....?"

"It's Mrs. Mrs. Walker." The nurse moves away and as Alex picks up the pen to fill out the pages she drops it with shaking hands when she realizes she is covered in blood. Walker's blood. She stands staring at her hands and starts shaking violently. She feels the queasiness in her stomach and realizes she is about to pass out. As her legs buckle, she feels herself going down, someone catches her and brings her back to a chair.

"I gotcha, hon. Take it easy." She glances up to see the familiar face of C.D. just before she looses consciousness.

 

*****

 

When she wakes, she's lying in a bed with C.D. holding her hand and Jimmy sitting on the edge of the bed. She sits up quickly, "Walker?"

"Whoa, there, hon. It's all right. They're still working on him, Alex. They said it would be a while, yet."

"Oh, Jimmy, those bullets were meant for me. He pushed me down he did it for me. I didn't know he was hurt at first oh, God, all that blood "

She looks at her hands and sees that the blood has been washed off. At least, most of it, anyway. She brings her hands to her face and the tears flow freely as she sobs uncontrollably. Jimmy pulls her into his chest, letting her cry it out. Talking soothingly, "It's gonna be all right, Alex. He'll make it. He's been in tough spots before and come back to us. He'll do it this time, too, you'll see."

"Oh, Jimmy, he had no heartbeat! It was awful. I was so scared." She dries her eyes on her sleeve and looks into his eyes, "Jimmy, what if what if .?"

"Come on, Alex, stop thinking like that. He'll make it." As he pulls her tight against him, he whispers, "He'll make it."

 

*****

 

Alex forces herself to sit in the waiting room, watching the door into which Walker was taken, wishing she could be with him, and wanting to be there when the doctor comes out.

Hours pass and the waiting room fills with Rangers, friends, and people that Alex had never even seen before. Sam is there with several other members of the Cherokee tribe, and there is also a strong contingent of Walker's Kick Drugs kids. All come up and either speak to her or just touch her to let her know she isn't alone.

Time stretches into infinity. Alex knows without looking that night has come and gone and the sun is now making it's presence known by the rays peeking around the edges of the venetian blinds on the windows. Her body is drained, her mind jumbled, worry etched deeply into her face. She tried several times to get the nurse to tell her something, anything, but she always got the standard answer of, "He's still in surgery No, I don't know what they're doing I'm sure the doctors are doing everything possible." Everyone who came earlier are still there, Walker had been a friend to many, and had helped just as many, either with words of encouragement, or physical labor, or if he had it, money.

Alex is sitting in a chair with her head in her hands, when she senses something different. She stands as two men come out of the door where Walker had disappeared. Their scrubs show the results of twelve long hours of surgery. Doctors, one of which is Dr. Jerry Matthews. She moves toward them with C.D. and Jimmy at her side. The crowd of people part to let them through then turn to follow. Jerry reaches out a hand to take hers. "Alex, this is Dr. Tom Masters. He's the Chief Neurologist here." Then, "Dr. Masters, this is Alex Cahill Walker."

"You're his wife?"

"Yes. How is he? Please, is he going to be all right?"

He takes her by the arm and walks her away from the others.

Her heart slams against her chest. 'Oh god, please no!'

He stops by the operating room doors, notices the two men with her, and gives them a long hard look. As she waits for him to speak, her knees threaten to give out when he finally turns back to face her. "Your husband is in very critical condition," he says softly.

She relaxes back against Jimmy and C.D., and murmurs tearfully, "Thank God, he's alive!"

"Are you the one who worked on him at the scene?" he asked.

She's only able to nod.

"You did a good job."

"How bad is he?" she asks softly.
"The most critical injury obviously is the chest wound. The bullet nicked an artery, and passed through the left lobe of the lung. The massive internal hemorrhaging is what caused the cardiac arrest. He responded to open heart massage and we managed to get the hemorrhaging under control. We've given him six units of blood so far, drained the thoracic cavity and repaired the damage...."

As she waits for him to finish, her face pales and she feels Jimmy take her by the arm, giving her support.

"The second bullet did some minor damage, but nothing of consequence. We did the best we could to repair all the damage while replacing enough fluids so that we could restore his blood pressure and circulation..." He looks softly at Alex, "It's up to him, now, Mrs. Walker. He's by no means out of the woods. The combinations of circulatory shock, cardiac and pulmonary arrest, well..." He watches as her eyes fill with tears, "What you did while waiting for the EMT's might very well make the difference."

Barely able to get the words out, "What about brain damage?"

"There has been no lapse of brain activity. But we'll just have to wait until he regains consciousness...and evaluate it then..."

"I want to see him, please."

He nods. "Briefly," he warns. "I'll take you up to ICU." She walks away from C.D. and Jimmy glancing back at them briefly. In ICU Alex walks behind the neurosurgeon numbly, letting him lead her to Walker's side. Then she sees him. Alive, but yet ... . He's hooked to a respirator, a heart monitor, oxygen, IV's, catheter...every orifice sported a tube of some sort. Every bodily function appears to be supported or performed by some type of machine. He has tubes running from his chest and abdominal cavity, draining out the last of the internal bleeding. His eyes have protective tape over them, little discs of white. Only his ears are unobstructed. He is barely recognizable as her husband.

She sits down in a chair and picks up his hand tenderly, "I'm here, darling, you've got to fight this, Walker, harder than you've ever fought anything in your life. I know you can hear me, darling." Unconsciously, her fingers play over his, caressing each one. "Please don't leave me..."

The nurse comes in and asks Alex to leave but she refuses. Just then Dr. Matthews comes into the room and after checking on Walker, he speaks softly to Alex, then to the nurse and he allows Alex to stay. He warns Alex of the dangers ahead for him and finally gives her a message of hope. "It's uncanny how he came back like I've never seen in a patient that far gone. He has a good strong rhythm. Stay here and talk to him. Bring him back, Alex."

It is days before he regains consciousness. But each day that he survives promises more hope. Her biggest worry is that he will come back as only a shell of the Walker that she knows.

When Walker finally wakes up, the first thing he sees is Alex asleep in the chair beside his bed, dozing in the early hours of the morning. She wakes to slight pressure on her hand. Opening her eyes she notices that his eyes are open and watching her. She says a silent prayer and grips his hand tightly waiting, unsure of what is behind his half-shut eyes.

His first words, spoken from cracked, unused vocal chords, "Alex are you all right?" This is her Walker, her husband, and it is just like him to be more concerned about her then himself. Tears flood her eyes now as she leans in close to him and touches her lips briefly against his, enjoying the sensation of warmth and life. "Welcome back, honey. I love you so much."

His first tentative smile is for her, realizing that she has been with him every step of the way. As the first grimace of pain shows on his face, he murmurs softly, "I felt you with me, Alex. Are you sure you're all right?"

She nodded. "Yes, darling. I'm fine, now."

 

THE END